Saturday, January 11, 2003

CPS rating slips to 'emergency'

Revised rules cause district's slide

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati Public Schools will fall back into a state of "academic emergency" when state report cards are issued next week, even though the district improved on 17 of 22 performance measures.

This year, the state ratings are based on how district students rate on the 22 measures. Those measures include fourth-, sixth- and ninth-grade tests, and the district's attendance and graduation rates.

The Ohio Department of Education this year has changed its report card for school districts. The changes are in part a result of legislation signed by Gov. Bob Taft in 2001. New report cards will be released Tuesday.
This year's district designations are based on 22 performance indicators, including attendance; graduation rates; and students' performance on fourth-, sixth- and ninth-grade proficiency tests. Five 12th-grade proficiency tests have been eliminated.
Here are the old and new rating systems:
26-27: Excellent
21-25: Effective
13-20: Continuous Improvement
8-12: Academic Watch
0-7: Academic Emergency
21-22: Excellent
17-20: Effective
11-16: Continuous Improvement
7-10: Academic Watch
0-6: Academic Emergency
Paper copies of the 2003 Local Report Cards will be mailed to parents in March.
Source: Ohio Department of Education
Previously, districts were measured in 27 areas.

"Cincinnati Public Schools is a district that is improving but needs to accelerate that improvement," said Superintendent Alton Frailey, who came to the district two months ago.

"Although this report card shows progress on nearly every indicator, we are not satisfied. All of us must work harder - teachers, administrators and parents - to ensure that every student meets the high standards we, and this community, expect."

Last year, the struggling 41,200-student urban district climbed out of "academic emergency," the lowest of five state rankings, to the next highest category, "academic watch." Administrators credited the improvement, in part, to the district's 12th-grade proficiency test results.

But this year the state reduced the number of performance measures from 27 to 22. Some of the measurements the state phased out - including the 12th-grade tests - were ones in which the district performed best.

Despite the low ranking, school officials say they are encouraged to see gains.

For example, the percentage of students passing the sixth-grade reading test increased 5.4 percentage points - to 33.1 percent - and the percentage of students passing writing increased by 20.4 percentage points - to 79.9 percent.

The state sets a standard that 75 percent of students should pass those tests.

The scores are from the 2001-02 school year.

In three of the five areas in which the district's scores slipped, the district still met the state standard. For example, the percentage of students taking and passing the ninth-grade writing tests (taken at eighth and ninth grades) dropped 1.9 percentage points. But the district still met the standard, with 78.7 percent passing.

Sue Taylor, president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers union, noted that the trouble spots were mostly in math and science.

"Those are the areas where we have the highest numbers of teachers teaching out of their area of certification," she said.

She said the district teachers and administrators need to work together to figure out how to strengthen math and science, as well as attract and retain qualified math and science teachers.

"While I'm disappointed, if one of the contributing factors is that the state has changed its rules of standards, how can we be consistently measured?" asked school board member Harriet Russell.

Board president Sally Warner said she's troubled by the negative rating because the district increased in many measurements.

The Ohio Department of Education is expected to announce school district academic ratings Tuesday.


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